'Did you know?'
fabric, paper, found box
“Did you know", Matilda said suddenly, "that the heart of a mouse beats at the rate of six hundred and fifty times a second?"
I did not," Miss Honey said smiling. "How absolutely fascinating. Where did you read that?"
In a book from the library," Matilda said. "And that means it goes so fast that you can't even hear the separate beats. It must sound like a buzz."
It must," Miss Honey said.”
Have to confess to using a little artistic licence in changing the quote slightly as, in fact, a mouse's heart beats at 650 times a minute.
The mouse took on several forms before the final one.
'What she needed'
Japanese paper, ink, lace
"What she needed was just one person, one wise, sympathetic grown-up who could help her."
The text, taken from the book, is all the mean things said to or about Matilda.
You are not alone.
cigar box, various found objects
“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” Roald Dahl
I wanted to create a box of treasure that Matilda might have gathered together. Each object with its own significance. Amongst others there is a page from one of her favourite books- Jane Eyre, a jar of kind words and photos of all her favourite authors watching over her.
She devoured one book after another.
Chocolate, gold leaf.
‘She devoured one book after another.’ Roald Dahl
In order to cast the book I had to temper the chocolate. If not done correctly you end up with streaky, white, crumbly, chocolate and not what I was looking for. Tempering involved heating the chocolate to specific temperature, cooling and reheating. It was not as easy as it sounded in theory. Five different methods, three thermometers, several kilos of chocolate and ten attempts left me with one usuable book.
These are a few of the fails...
paper, aluminium foil, silver leaf
“You seemed so far away," Miss Honey whispered, awestruck.
"Oh, I was. I was flying past the stars on silver wings," Matilda said. "It was wonderful.”
Several prototypes were made using various papers and gold or silver leaf.
When I was asked to contribute to Books of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl’s Matilda immediately sprang to mind. It is the story of a precocious little girl with special powers, who is neglected, overlooked and underestimated by her parents. When they fail to send her to school she teaches herself to read and her world is opened up. You could almost say the books or at least the authors become surrogate parents.
The work is not so much about the story but more about the character and her resilience, self-reliance and determination to learn despite her disadvantageous start.
My original idea was to create an imaginary archive or collection of fabricated objects that could have belonged to Matilda. Each piece was inspired by a particular quote from the book and by objects from the V&A collection.
It's unusual for me to have fixed ideas from the beginning but I knew almost instantly what I'd make.
'Books of the Unexpected' is showing at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff from 13th September until 2nd November 2014
I have been on the Developing practice for makers through museum collections course at City Lit. London for the past year. It has been really great and I've enjoyed gaining a new perspective on my own way of working.
The first few months were difficult as we had to choose a collection or museum we might imagine our work being displayed in. Paralysed by the variety of choice I floundered a bit but heard about "Inspired by" -a competition organised by Morley Gallery in conjunction with The V&A. The brief was to make something in response to an item in the collection of either the V&A or the Museum of Childhood. Narrowing the focus was key for me. There was still an immense number of exhibits to choose from so
after a few visits I took to looking at the online catalogue. This was really helpful and I probably looked at the objects much closer and for longer than I would have in the museum where the volume of objects is overwhelming.
Eventually I settled a small layette pincushion from the C18th.
I was fascinated to learn that straight pins would have been used to fasten clothing of even the smallest baby because safety pins were not invented until 1860. The gift of a pincushion would be given after the birth as it was believed that to receive it before would mean more pain in labour. I found that pins they were also thought to be protective and were hidden in a child’s clothing to ward off evil. This protective aspect of the pin made me think of the fears we have for our children not only when they are infants but into adulthood. I chose to use a found item of clothing and placed more than 5000 pins in the lining as little amulets of protection. The tiny jacket becomes a coat of armour but also suggests the dangers and damage caused by over protection.
I find the history of the humble pin fascinating and there is much more to explore ..
I'm following my bliss.